You’re nervous, conflicted, and overwhelmed. You’re hit with notifications at all hours of the night. You’re the person weighing the pros and cons of heaving your phone across the room.
You’re in charge of social media at a university.
If you’re like most social media managers in higher ed, you’re not trained in crisis communication, but you’re on the frontlines waging war against trolls with a fly swatter.
Whether it’s the economic downfall from a global pandemic, the uncertainty of reopening campus, or BLM, you’ve been catapulted into what may feel like a non-stop alley fight as you struggle to find the right combination of words to stave off the tidal wave descending on higher education.
Yes, social media is all-consuming and frustrating at times, but there is silver lining.
Social media made it possible for people’s voices to be amplified. That is reason for celebration.
While others can have their voices raised with exponential trajectory, this isn’t the time for you to publicly post your personal opinion. It’s not your job to have an opinion. It’s also not your job (or possible) to “make uncomfortable conversations stop,” but it is your job to help your university temper complaints, respond with the facts, and acknowledge the opinions of your students, alumni, faculty, and staff. Use your expertise and intelligence “on the ground” to share your opinions — guiding strategy and decision-making.
Remember, you are trying to post or moderate on behalf of a brand not your personal account.
Whether you’re the “voice” for your university, the moderator of a Facebook Group, or the putz responsible for posting using your personal account, consider these tips.
1) have thick skin;
2) be objective;
3) be transparent;
4) answer with facts;
5) know who to contact if you need to track down answers;
6) setup alerts (and ideally use a monitoring platform like Meltwater);
7) respond (and do it within 45 minutes, 2 hours, or 24 hours);
8) be tied to the platform 24/7 taking shifts with team members, (if you’re a team of one, it’s important to strike a healthy balance. Set clear boundaries within your social media community and with leadership);
9) be succinct and try to avoid using adjectives. Adjectives are picked apart by trolls and can be difficult to defend;
10) have talking points handy from your communication team (but don’t just copy and paste. Make them your own while staying on brand).
11) As a bonus tip, don’t engage with trolls.
I write these knowing there are constant judgment calls, competing recommendations from within your organization, and personal beliefs that can wear you down. This list of ten isn’t exhaustive. But, if you can’t follow these tips you probably need to do a three-point turn and see your way off your university’s social media platform unless you want to be the latest victim in a modern day rendition of Lord of the Flies.
If all else fails, go ahead and chuck your phone across the room.